Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In St. Petersburg, towing is back as crime fighter

ST. PETERSBURG — As of Monday, tow trucks are once again a crime-fighting tool.

An old city ordinance that allows police to impound vehicles used to solicit a prostitute, make a drug deal or carry illegal drugs, is back. Police began enforcing it this week.

"It gives us another set of consequences to help deter those crimes," said St. Petersburg Police Department spokesman Bill Proffitt.

Offenders will have to pay $500 to recover their vehicle, in addition to towing and storage fees. They have 15 days to contest the seizure, but if no action is taken within 30 days, the vehicle will be turned over to the towing company.

Police need probable cause to impound a car. Only owners and co-owners are affected.

The ordinance first went into effect in 1999, when St. Petersburg took a cue from other Florida cities that had adopted similar measures. It was voluntarily suspended in 2003 while a lawsuit, Mulligan vs. Hollywood, Fla., went through the legal system.

In Hollywood, a car is turned over to the city at the end of 30 days, and a city official hears any case that is contested. The lawsuit charged that the process favored the city.

It argued that, in essence, the ordinance allowed the city to permanently seize the vehicle. It pointed out that a state law that allows a seizure for cars used in the commission of felonies already exists.

But an appeals court found that there was a distinction between the ordinance and the state law. The ordinance was in fact, an impoundment, which is temporary, and not a seizure, which is permanent. Furthermore, the ordinance applies to misdemeanors.

The rules in St. Petersburg are different enough that the issues brought up in the lawsuit did not apply. A car is not turned over to the city and those who hear the cases are not city employees.

"In reality we never had a problem with our ordinance, but in an abundance of caution, and out of fairness to everybody, we simply stopped the process," said Don Gibson, legal adviser for the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Thanks to the ordinance, 604 cars were impounded from 1999 to 2003, and $260,250 flowed into city coffers, according to police statistics.

In St. Petersburg, towing is back as crime fighter 07/21/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 3:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College World Series puts Florida Gators in elite company

    Blogs

    With Tuesday night's College World Series win, the Florida Gators put themselves in rare company.

    Florida celebrates after defeating LSU in Game 2 of the College World Series finals, Tuesday, in Omaha, Neb.
  2. Pinellas sees spike in infant deaths from unsafe sleeping, and advocates are concerned

    Health

    The reports from the Department of Children and Families are tragic: A Pinellas County mother falls asleep on a recliner during an early morning feeding and wakes to find one of her 3-month-old twins unresponsive. Another finds her 6-month-old daughter lying still, a blanket over her head. Another infant is found wedged …

    Advocates are looking to step up their public information efforts this year after reports show a spike in sleep-related infant deaths in Pinellas County. [iStockphoto.com]
  3. Kellyanne Conway warns of health care spin, but then delivers her own in Miami

    Blogs

    On the same day that Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on their healthcare legislation because not enough of them wanted to vote for it, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the bill in Miami.

    White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is welcomed by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-District 105, at the Miami-Dade GOP’s Lincoln Day fundraiser on Tuesday night.
  4. Sign up for our new daily News at Noon email newsletter

    News

    The Tampa Bay Times will soon launch a daily newsletter called News at Noon. You can make sure to be among the first to receive it by signing up now.